(Written by Louisa Alley Barnhill circa 1940)
In 1865 N.B. (Napoleon Bonaparte) Alley, Dick as he was commonly known, got his Honorable Discharge from the war and came marching home riding old Copper, a big dappled copper colored horse, the one he took with him.
How glad we were to see him coming. The farm had grown up to weeds, no one to tend it.
In 1867 he sold his home in Mercer County, Mo. Missouri was a new country with apple orchards starting and business was good. They couldn’t sell the beehives so we took the honey, had 25 gallons. With a riding pony, two teams and covered wagons with the family, a wife and four children and a watch dog, started for Kansas.
We crossed the Missouri River at St. Joseph on a ferry boat, one large enough for six wagons and teams, and came to Abilene. The railroad had been just that far. Then on to Thomas Alley’s, four miles east of Salina on the Smoky Hill river, where we stayed the winter. Couldn’t get possession of our own home. Had a cold winter. We saw trains of government wagons with four to six mules pulling them, 12 and 15 in a string, after March came. It was so cold the Smoky river was still frozen over on the 10th of March. They covered the ice with straw and led the horses across on the ice.
We then moved to our home about ten miles north east of Salina on the Saline river, west of the Gardner Bridge. Had a one roomed small log house with a fireplace in a west where we done our cooking.
Father with others, Solomon Humbarger, Bill, Earl and Harry Trask, Fred Rhodes and Tom Boyle, hunted buffalo. They brought home loads of good meat and hides. Some meat we dried, some we sugar cured and we tanned the hides for bed covers. There were herds of antelope, wild turkey, rabbits, prairie chicken, quail and grouse.
The fish were big in the Saline river and all this helped for our living. Them were happy days.
The first year there we raised wheat and with no thrashing machine near we flailed out a little grist with clubs. We also raise cane and made our own sorghum.
Salina was just a small place, a store called Campbell’s, a blacksmith shop and an eating place, one place they bought buffalo hides and a few dwellings.
In 1869 Mother got a fever and passed away leaving us children very lonely and to dig for ourselves. Sol being only one and a half years old we all cared for him.
Father went buffalo hunting in the autumn of 1870 and took a claim on Bacon creek. He sold our home in Saline County for $1,400. Maybe could be bought for that many thousands now. He bought a few cattle, a team of black ponies, one pony died with blind staggers, also one of the iron gray team died. Thought it was from eating wormy corn. He sold the other iron gray and bought a team of oxen, Tom and Jerry. He put a cover on the wagon, planned for a three day trip to our new home. We camped out two nights. First at Scots, then Lincoln Weesner’s at the river. We stopped at the Rocky Hill Mill then at the dreadful scene at the Rocks where the Moffet [sic; Moffitt] boys were killed, passed through [missing; perhaps Abram?], there were a few houses there. We came through the edge of Lincoln, it had just been staked out. Came on past T. Boil [sic; might mean Tom Boyle] – Christiansen and Bacon places on to our camping place on April 23, 1871, at the creek just north of what is now John Twible’s [sic; Twibell’s] brick house. We were the fartherest [sic] north family on the creek, but we felt safe, with Father with us, on the creek. With guns and ammunition and Brother Perry who was handy with a gun.
There was an old vacated Indian village right there too, with broken butcher knives, old kettles. Poles stood up with buffalo hides stretched around them for wigwams. There had been a prairie fire come through and burned most of it.
There was nice green buffalo grass everywhere and running water in the creek. That night we had a big rain. We had a cover over us but the water ran under our beds and wet them. The next day we moved back to Bacon’s and stayed there for around two weeks until we could make a house, and a lot. Made the lot first to put the cattle in at night. The Indians had cut trees down for their ponies to gnaw on the bark, when the snow covered the grass, and there was plenty of logs to make a lot of 25 by 40 and a house 14 by 16. Poles, brush, old grass, then shale made the roof. One half of a window in the north, one glass in the south door, a fire place in the east, we done our cooking on that. We burned wood about three feet long, this warmed the house, made the light and a place to cook the meals. I have lived for weeks with no other light but the light from the fireplace. Food was very scarce. Salina was the nearest gristmill. The wild buffalo passed through every few days as many as ten to 25 together. Some were killed for meat.
One day we saw five Indians on ponies coming and we made ready for the. They made motions and jabbered that they were civil and wanted to eat. We though they were spies looking to see how we were situated and wanting to make a raid. We were very uneasy for some time wondering if they and their tribe would make a raid on us. Father and Perry slept with their fire arms in reach and carried them all of the time outside. Our first house was on the side hill, we could see all around us. We raised a little sod corn and had a sod garden that first year, pumpkins and squash, popcorn, we also raised a few chickens. We had brought a few old ones with us.
There were some settlers came the autumn. We burned a lime kiln to fix our fireplace and to plaster our house.
The next year, in 1872, the settlers flocked in and that seemed good. Elling Hansen, Berti Nilson [sic], Mr. Oas, came walking with their packs, some bedding, provisions, an ax and space and some tools to work with.
They first made a little sod house for Mr. Hansen, next one was for Berti Nilsen (the old Metzgar [sic; Metzger] place). The next one was for Mr. Oas (the Orla Wright place). Charley Heller owns the Hansen place. There were lots of buffalo paths leading down to the creek water, and buffalo wallows showed for years in the field after they were plowed and buffalo bones aplenty, head with the horns and hide still on them.
In the spring of 1872 a dugout was made for Mr. Dorman and his family to live in. In later summer of 1873, David Bacon taught school a few weeks free for the benefit of his children, Willie and Marie Bacon, and Annie, Tom and Sol Alley in the dugout. He was a preacher and an educated man.
When people first came they had good clothes but when they were worn out it was hard to get money or find a place to buy more. We made candles of buffalo tallow in 1874. That year Joe Lee taught school in late summer -- $1 a month for each scholar. He had ten students – Ruby, Will, Frank and Mo[missing several letters] Thompson, Willie and Maria Bacon and Louisa, Anna, Tom and Sol Alley.
In 1873 Father was elected Justice of the Peace. Our dugout was 14 by 18 with the fireplace to the east. The south window was six 14 inch glasses side by side. The door in the west of the dugout was dug in the ground four feet then built up with logs and covered with dirt. There were gooseberries growing on the creek. The fleas were a pest there. There were no chiggers and wasn’t many flies as now aday but the mosquitoes were there by the swarms. We had to smog them before we could sleep as we had no screens.
In 1875 Mrs. Thomas taught two months of school in the autumn. She was a sister of Wright and lived where Jake Geering lives (on the farm).
Also in 1875 was the grasshopper year, we had a crop growing and in mid-summer the air became full of grasshoppers so thick the sun was dimmed like a cloud had covered it. They came down and eat all our crop. We had some garden stuff so we pulled and piled it against the house and with brush we fought off the hoppers.
People who owned some Texas cattle turned them loose to forage for themselves. Father and Perry killed many of them to protect our own stock.
There were Grange, Farmer’sClubs and Sunday School held in the dugout where they held school. There was also one revival meeting held by Woody and Strange.
One hot day in 1874 at harvest time, the wheat was in the shock, a wild buffalo came plunging down the creek bank into a water hole near where Tom and Sol Alley and Herbert Croush and the dog Cussy were playing. The boys got clubs and with the dog gave it a chase. It came near the house, nipping wheat from the shocks as it passed them.
Father followed it and killed it. Two Parsons boys from the Spillman came following it up on horse back it had got out of their sight so Father divided with them and all had meat.
In 1876 Permelia Ellis taught our school and lived with her brother Bob Ellis. In 1877 Mrs. John Smith of Pottersburg taught in the spring, she came on horseback.
The coal bank was opened in 1883 and operated by Hank St. John and his son-in-law Otis Harvey. Otis was lowering his tools one evening for night work with the sweep that hoisted the coal with a horse, but had to lower it by hand. They found him dead on the track, his tools at the bottom. He had a bruise on his head and there was hair on the sweep so they supposed it got the advantage of him.
About 1877 the log schoolhouse was built. In 1881 we had a neighborhood Fair with lots of exhibits for just one day. A few good cattle and horses, quits [sic; probably quilts], rugs, vegetables and fruit. Red, white and blue ribbons for prizes. Peter Horner was there with his circle swing run by his horse Jim, and he yelled 25 times around the world for a dime.
I have seen this country charge, the prairie, buffalo grass to waving golden grain and pastures of fine cattle and horses, the homes of dugout and the sod shanty to frame and stone and brick modern homes. The dugout school to good school houses, high school and colleges.
The farming equipment from ox teams to horses to tractors and Farmalls. The thrashing from flail to [missing word] power then to horse power, steam engines and to combine.